A dental patient has been forced to wait 243 weeks for treatment, new figures have revealed.
Statistics revealed by the Lib Dems found the patient had to wait for outpatient “oral and maxillofacial surgery” in the NHS Grampian area.
The party used freedom of information legislation to request details of the longest waits faced by dental patients in each NHS board.
The figures also showed a 131-week wait a patient in NHS Tayside endured for unspecified outpatient work. The request also exposed the extensive waiting times for inpatients in NHS Grampian, where another patient was forced to wait 126 weeks for dental surgery.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton called on Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to step in.
He said: “These new figures have shed light on the staggeringly long waits some patients face for important dental treatment. In many cases such lengthy delays are seriously disrupting patients’ lives.
“Across Scotland, dental consultant vacancies are going unfilled and patients are left waiting. The most recent official figures confirm a “noticeable drop” in NHS dental staff, down almost 15% in the past five years.
“Liberal Democrats were instrumental in introducing free dental checks in Scotland and in pressing for a new dental school to address the shortage of dentists, particularly in remote and rural areas of Scotland.
“As a result, we’ve made progress as a country. However, as these new figures show, there are still glaring gaps in our dentistry services which urgently need addressed.
“The Health Secretary needs to take immediate action to get services back on track. For a start, she could publish the integrated workforce plan that staff were told would be out last year.”
An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “We have a significant number of people awaiting dental extractions, following a referral from their own dentist.
“In order to clear the backlog, a contract has been awarded to a local clinic to carry out inspections and further treatment if necessary.
“In the longer term we hope to develop our capacity to perform this work in-house, but we are keen to reduce the number of patients waiting in the meantime.”
David McColl, chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: “Patients shouldn’t be waiting eons for life-changing surgery.
“These procedures can help restore both functionality and appearance to a patient’s teeth and mouth after cancer or serious injuries.
“Years of under-investment and failure to support high street practice are heaping huge pressures on our hospitals.
“Ministers can’t go on treating dentistry as an optional extra in Scotland’s health service.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “No one should have to wait too long for dental treatment and that is why we have taken decisive action to address the issue.
“Our Waiting Times Improvement Plan will substantially and sustainably improve waiting times.
“We will continue to work with boards to ensure this additional funding delivers the substantial and sustainable improvements needed.”